The Repatriation of Yemeni Antiquities from the State of New York
April 28, 2023
The Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Washington, DC, was hosted today in Manhattan, New York at the Office of the District Attorney of New York County (DANY) in a ceremony for the repatriation of three precious pieces of stolen Yemeni artifacts which have been retrieved by U.S. law enforcement agencies and authorities in concert with the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of DANY.
In attendance at this historic repatriation ceremony were senior officials from DANY, representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Homeland Security Investigations), along with distinguished guests of the Antiquities Coalition, and members of the Yemeni-American community of New York from various boroughs.
The three priceless Yemeni artifacts that were returned today are embodied in the following forms:
- A silver vessel with inscription from the 2nd to 3rd century A.C.E.
- An alabaster female figurine from the 2nd to 1st century B.C.E.; and
- An alabaster ram figure with an inscribed base from the 5th century B.C.E.
The repatriation of these items is the culmination of extensive work by the US authorities in seeking, searching, and seizing these cultural heritage properties, and marks the second time that Yemeni artifacts have been returned to Yemen from US Government authorities based in New York City. The previous repatriation that took place in New York in 2004, which involved the return of a single funerary stele.
H.E. Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, the Ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to the United States expressed his deep gratitude to the NY State Government, in particular to DANY and the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, as well as U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for their significant efforts exerted in retrieving these Yemeni artifacts. He furthermore said, “We will continue our close engagement with the State of New York and U.S. Government in pursuit of the restitution of Yemen’s stolen cultural heritage and property that have been illegally and illegitimately possessed in the United States And we look forward to collaborating again with the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art with an additional temporary loan of these objects, and I thank the Smithsonian for their continued care of our precious cultural heritage.”
Indeed, ever since the Houthis’ coup in Yemen in 2014, our heritage and history have been under attack. In addition to the Houthi militias, other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have taken advantage of the current situation in Yemen by looting, smuggling, and trading in Yemeni antiquities.
The Embassy highly appreciates the efforts of the Government of the United States of America at both the Federal and State Levels in implementing the import restrictions of Yemeni antiquities into the United States, and in the retrieval of any Yemeni artifacts. These are essential measures undertaken to protect and preserve Yemen’s cultural property, and they underscore the depth of Yemen-US relations.